At the close of this first week of the 2013-2014 school year, we want to take a moment to welcome back all of the wonderful D181 teachers. We want to express our appreciation for all the work they did over the summer to prepare for the start of school and recognize in advance all they will do for our students this year.
Last year, the teachers faced many challenges as the administration made radical changes to the curriculum. Far too many initiatives were thrown their way. Some were forced to come up with their own curriculum materials in elementary math, which was a chaotic mess since the Administration refused to use the Everyday Math Common Core Supplements (which, after a total about face by the Administration, will be used this year). Throughout all of this, the teachers did not receive the administrative support that they should have. Nevertheless, the teachers worked diligently and did their very best to provide our children with an outstanding educational environment and experience. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, student performance suffered in the grades where the "experimentation" took place.
Teachers at all grade levels expressed frustration regarding the many changes that took place last year
and that will continue this year as the newly renamed Advanced Learning Plan -- now called Learning for All Plan -- rolls out. In last Spring's teacher survey, they voiced concerns that the heterogeneous model that is being implemented will:
1. negatively impact all learners,
2. water down courses reducing the needed challenges for our highest achievers, and
3. create academic hardships for our already struggling learners and average achievers, who will be forced into an acceleration model that may prove too difficult for them to keep up with and will destroy their self-esteem.
As this new year kicks off, we share the teachers' concerns, however, we recognize that "the train has left the station" and all teachers have been forced to board it. We know that they will make every effort to make the heterogeneous model work in D181. If the new model fails to "raise the ceiling" for our highest achievers, while also "raising the floor" for our current academically struggling students, it will certainly NOT be the teachers' fault. They have been forced into a situation where their legitimate concerns were ignored by the administrators who developed the new model -- Kurt Schneider, Kevin Russell and Christine Igoe --, by Superintendent Schuster, who is responsible for every decision made in D181 and by the majority of the Board of Education who refused to ask tough questions and push for data driven decisions.
We want to be clear that if this year is another failure (as measured by student performance), we will not blame the teachers, nor should the Board of Education. We will blame the Administration. Our children and teachers should not have to put up with another year of chaos, unrealistic expectations and inadequate administrative oversight and support forced upon them by Dr. Schuster and her Central Office administrators. Should that happen, we hope that the teachers will continue to voice their concern. We certainly will and we will look to the Board of Education to hold the Administration accountable and make a change in leadership.
I find it interesting that next year our students won't be taking the ISAT. How are we to know if this new "Learning for All" plan is actually better than what we have in place now? Are the other high achieving districts in IL also skipping the ISAT. Also, it was said that the new math curriculum would save money-but the Learning for All plan calls for hiring 2 aditional teachers and 2 instuctional coaches at a cost of $300,00. I would sure demand some factual data that shows this plan is "better". Next year, is the adminstration going to hire more instructional coaches? 2 extra teachers, and 2 coaches to help with all our elementary schools? My taxes just went up to help support the schools-I really hope the board acts responsibly and doesnt try and push another tax increase through without first seeing some positive results for all this change. The taxpayers salaries are not increasing at such a rate as most of the administration's salaries have. Fees, supplies etc have also increased every year. Enough is Enough. You have to give to get. I want to see some impressive results which quite frankly were nowhere to be seen. ( due to administration push, not teacher's ability)
Parent of 2 elementary children
Great questions Parent of 2 Elementary Children. Here is what we know about the ISAT's being replaced. Illinois schools are implementing "Common Core Standards." Starting with some "field" testing in Spring 2014, followed by a full roll out state wide in 2014-2015, the ISAT test will be replaced by a new test called the PARCC Assessment. PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. You can read more about the PARCC test at: http://www.parcconline.org/illinois-preparing-parcc-assessment . We don't know how exactly the Board or administration will know if the new "Learning for All" plan is actually better, since it doesn't seem like there any "measureable goals" the administrators must live up to. If you notice, the Agenda for tonight has another "Smart Goals" discussion, but the goals being presented seem to miss the mark and are far from measureable. Let's hope the Board demands more from the administration.
As for D181's plans to hire more teachers, we will probably have to wait and see. We know that some of the Board members have been asking for supporting data on the plans being rolled out in our district, but as far as we can tell, there has been none given. Our suggestion is that you also write to the Board demanding answers to your questions -- and if you get any, please come back and share them.
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